Ever wonder why it’s so difficult to find iPod nano cases or armband that are guaranteed to fit the Nike+iPod Sport Kit receiver? I spent several days at Macworld last week, speaking to the dozens of iPod accessory makers on the Expo floor, in an attempt to find out. I wasn’t prepared for some of their answers.
The Nike+iPod Sport Kit has been available for six months, it works with the best-selling iPod (the nano), both Apple and Nike have publicly touted its success, and users have uploaded nearly five million miles worth of runs to the Nikeplus website. Clearly, it has attracted an enthusiastic audience. And yet, try to find accessories for the iPod nano which fit the receiver dongle (and let you access the iPod controls and see the screen) and you’re left with a very limited set of choices. In fact, only Marware and Speck had such an armband on display. Are there new “Nike+iPod ready” accessories on the way in 2007? Is the market simply too small to be worth the trouble? These are some of the questions I expected to answer. Instead, what I found out was a complete shock… Many iPod accessory makers just aren’t familiar with the Nike+iPod Sport Kit, and in some cases have never even heard of it.
Yes, that’s right. It bears repeating: Several designers and manufacturers of iPod nano cases have never heard of the Nike+iPod Sport Kit. Didn’t know it existed. Even after I described it in detail. Nope, didn’t ring a bell. And let me be clear; I wasn’t talking to temporary sales people hired to staff the booths. I made sure I talked to a company executive involved in the design or marketing of the products themselves. It was a real eye-opener.
I would understand if a company said that they had looked at the market for the Nike+iPod Sport Kit and didn’t think there would be sufficient demand for a separate product line (as some did). I would understand if a company said they were thinking about making a Nike+iPod accessory in the coming year (as some did). But for a company to admit they had never heard of a high-profile, Apple-branded iPod product shows a fundamental lack of interest in, or curiosity about, their own business. (I won’t be outing those companies here. No need to give them publicity that they don’t deserve.)
Not all of my experiences on the Macworld floor were so frustrating. Out of the 30+ iPod accessory booths I visited, I did manage to meet one actual Nike+iPod user: Emily from DLO. Even though DLO doesn’t make a case specifically for Nike+iPod, Emily was quick to show me how she uses their Action Jacket case and armband with her Sport Kit. By clipping the case to the armband upside-down, you can easily see the screen and access the controls. Leaving the port connector flap open provides access for the receiver dongle. It’s a simple solution which I suggested should be highlighted on their website. After all, who wants to order a $30 case without knowing for sure that the Nike+ receiver will fit?
Other companies showed some interest in the Nike+iPod market as well. While RadTech, Z-Cover, Case-Mate, and Mophie don’t currently offer Nike+iPod specific accessories, they all seemed genuinely interested in listening to suggestions for providing future support.
So I guess I found the answer I was looking for. It’s not that accessory makers aren’t interested in the Nike+iPod market, but rather, they don’t understand a market might exist. I made it my duty to tell them that we’re out there… an army of Nike+iPod users looking for a wide range of attractive and practical solutions. Whether they listen or not is another matter altogether.
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